06/27/2003 12:00AM

Battlements a product of Minshall breeding program

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Mt. Sassafras, Canada's Horse of the Year of 1996, will be paraded in front of the Woodbine fans as part of the Canada Day festivities Tuesday. An 11-year-old gelding, he won the 1997 edition of the Dominion Day Handicap, the 1 1/4-mile race held annually on the country's birthday.

Mt. Sassafras was one of four champions raced by Aubrey Minshall in the 1990's. In fact, it has been 12 years since Minshall, who died in 1993, collected his first Sovereign, for his homebred sprint champion King Corrie.

Aubrey's sons, Shawn and Patrick, and widow, Barbara, who also trains the stable's runners, operate Minshall Farms these days, and although its runners have not been seen in the winner's circle after stakes races often in recent years, the brown and sand-colored silks popped up with Battlements following the Afleet Stakes June 20.

Battlements, a homebred son of Sea Wall, who is a half-brother to Mt. Sassafras, is the first foal of the farm's stakes-placed mare Castlemania.

"She was a pretty good mare, she won first time out," Barb Minshall said.

"Battlements was a late foal, so I took my time with him, but ever since his first couple of workouts he proved he had a good head on his shoulders."

The Afleet, a six-furlong dirt race for Canadian-breds, was the third win in six starts for Battlements, who also finished third in the restricted Bold Ruckus Stakes on turf June 4.

It was the fourth stakes winner for the Minshall-bred stallion Sea Wall, a stakes-winning sprinter who has found his way into the top 10 on the leading Canadian sire list after a slow start.

"In his first year at stud, he got a late start because he raced in the winter," Minshall said. "I only bred a few mares to him. In his second year, I don't think he was getting the right kind of mares. I find with the Sea Walls you have to breed a little speed to him, I like to breed the Bold Ruckus line to him."

Castlemania is a daughter of Bold Ruckus, a longtime leading Canadian sire. Another stakes winner by Sea Wall, the turf runner Ariel's Melody, is also out of a Bold Ruckus mare. Castlemania has a 2-year-old filly and a yearling filly by Sea Wall.

The stallion, whose son Ocean Front won the Bridgeburg Stakes at Fort Erie two weeks ago, stands at Minshall Farms for a fee of $1,500. Charming Sassafras, dam of Mt. Sassafras, Sea Wall, and stakes winner One Emotion, was euthanized this spring because of complications after foaling. The mare was named outstanding broodmare in Canada in 1997.

The Minshall team is also involved with a new stallion, Kiridashi, a millionaire son of Bold Ruckus who raced for the family in the mid-1990's. The stallion's first crop are 3-year-olds this year.

"The jury is still out on him, but he deserves a chance," Minshall said. "In his first crop, his foals were long, lean, and leggy, and now I find they are chunkier. They are aggressive horses and need to be taught to rate."

Kiridashi was the leading freshman sire in Canada last year and sired stakes winner Snake Pit.

Minshall has high hopes for a promising homebred 3-year-old, Raw Power, who won his maiden in an allowance race on the Woodbine turf last week. A liver chestnut, he is by Rahy and from the Minshall mare Bold Ruritana.

"I'm hoping to get him to the Breeders' Stakes," said Minshall, regarding the third jewel of Canada's Triple Crown.

Bold Ruritana, a two-time Canadian turf champion filly or mare, is in foal to Silver Deputy and is one of 20 mares the farm bred this spring.